It’s not quite “Journey to the West” but the trek to the top of ZhongHe’s (中和) HongLuDi NanShan FuDeGong (烘爐地南山福德宮) temple is monumental in its effort, and not for the faint hearted.
By Stuart Hill
As one of Taipei’s most popular temples, HongLuDi provides arguably THE best view of the city, day or night, stretching out from the narrow and chaotic streets of ZhongHe and YongHe, following the river to the west of the city, and receding into the distant hills on the north and south-east sides of the Taipei basin with the ubiquitous 101 building in the background.
Assuming you decided to walk from the base of the mountain, it could take you the best part of a morning to get up to the entry to the temple itself, that is unless you have very good stamina and a huge bottle of water to keep you hydrated.
If you are driving, the narrow two-way road winds extremely steeply, with some incredibly sharp hair-pin turns. During Chinese New Year, the roads are said to be packed and slow going, and there is typically a long queue to pay your respects to the Earth God (TuDiGong) when you arrive. That said, there are stairs leading up along the side of the road if you decided to attempt to walk instead.
For people who like to hike, HongLuDi offers an excellent opportunity to work out your legs, even after catching a bus or driving a car to the parking lot just below the temple compound’s entrance. But if you add in the climb from the very bottom of the valley, you could make the return trip into a complete day’s hiking adventure.
The temple — dedicated to the benevolent Earth God (TuDiGong) — has recently been renovated with some beautiful wood work inlaid into sections of the temple, as well as various shrines. A shop beside the temple allows you to buy offerings (and refreshments) without having to lug them the whole journey with you, and there are several vendors behind the temple that provide simple night-market style food if you need it.
The best views of the city are had in the late afternoon to early evening when the sun is behind you blaring onto the full width and breadth of greater Taipei. Or when the city lights sparkle across the entire basin below.
To get to HongLuDi first catch the MRT to NanShiJiao (Yellow Line) and either catch the shuttle (F512) or a taxi to the parking lot entrance below the huge statue of the Earth God (TuDiGong) himself. The rest of the way you need to walk on foot and even then you will be likely to want to rest a bit as you make your way to the summit. But it is worth it, including for the temple at the top.
In the evening after the descent back to the MRT, you can explore around the station for some traditional Burmese food (ZhongHe is home to Taiwan’s largest Burmese Chinese community), or any number of local and imported cuisines.
A foot massage might be a well deserved end to the day as well.